Managing Pantry Inventory: Tips for Preventing Waste in Your Pantry
February 28, 2023
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), one-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste each year. This translates to $1.3 trillion worth of food (over 1 billion tons) just thrown away.
The amount of wasted food could feed more than two billion people. To think, there are 811 million people who go to bed hungry every night—something that could easily be avoided.
Fortunately, individuals and corporations alike have become more aware of this problem and are devising ways to mitigate this excessive amount of waste. For example, a good pantry inventory app and other practical tips can make a ton of difference.
How Is Food Wasted?
Many factors lead to an egregious amount of food waste. But if there is one term that distills a worldwide issue, it’s this: mismanagement.
Here are the preventable ways food is wasted:
Failure to Plan Food Supplies
On the consumer level, a lot of food is wasted because of individuals’ or families’ inability to plan. People buy things they don’t use, and they get thrown out after their expiration date.
In some cases, shoppers are also enticed by discounts on produce and purchase them when they don’t really have a plan for using them. To top it off, these discounted products are about to go bad and should have been consumed immediately.
Failure to Check on Expiration Date
Many consumers neglect to keep track of food items’ expiration dates, so they go bad before they can be consumed. People also throw away so much food because of confusion over the expiration or best-by dates.
According to research, some 84% of consumers occasionally throw away food because of the dates on the packaging. Research respondents said the phrase “best if used by” indicates quality, while the expiration date and phrase “best by” indicate safety.
In reality, these dates are not federally mandated. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food manufacturers voluntarily place the dates to indicate freshness.
The following are the meanings of food labels:
- Best By – refers to when food is at its peak quality
- Sell By – indicates how long a store must hold on to the item
- Use By / Consume By – determines the last day food is at its peak quality
- Expiration Date – the last day a product is at its best quality
The Impact of Wasting Food
Here are important reasons you should not waste food:
Waste of Money
According to research, the average U.S. household wastes about 31.9% of the food they purchase. Households with lower income spend an average of $4,875 on food each year, as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once you crunch the numbers, it would seem that about $1,625 worth of food is thrown out annually.
The research on household waste also noted that even the least wasteful home kitchen still dumps 8.7% of the food it acquires. The most wasteful ones lose as much as 50%, which would be more than $2,400. These are significant amounts of money that households could benefit from in so many ways.
Waste of Humanitarian Opportunity
Food that ends up wasted could have fed millions of people. As the United Nations says, global hunger is the world’s “most solvable problem.” The solution should be simple: stop wasting food and donate it to the hungry instead.
Negative Environmental Impact
Many people don’t recognize that food wastage has a severe negative impact on the environment. According to WFP, if global food waste is a country, it would be the third highest contributor of carbon emissions—the U.S. and China lead the charge.
Waste of Space
The space allotted for wasted food could have been used for something more productive and beneficial to the human population.
Managing Pantry Inventory to Avoid Food Waste
If the leading cause of food wastage is mismanagement, then the best way to prevent it is through better organization.
Here are some ways you can avoid wasting food at home or in your place of business by using pantry inventory management:
Plan Your Meals
When households plan their meals ahead of time, they are more deliberate in their grocery shopping. They know what they need to buy and how much because they know exactly what they will use the ingredients for.
Keep Track of Expiry Dates
Take note of your food items’ expiry dates. You don’t need to throw away food that outlasts its “best if used by” label, which is different from an expiration date.
You will know the food has gone bad and should not be consumed when it develops molds, changes color, or smells different.
Use First-In-First-Out Method
Items that were bought first are stored first and must be used first as well. But this method must be complemented with the label: use the products closer to their expiration or “best by” dates.
Store Food Properly
Some items go to waste simply because they were not stored correctly. You must practice these storage tips to prevent throwing away food:
- Use airtight containers to avoid spoilage. It will also keep pests and other contaminants away.
- Put newly purchased items at the back of the pantry or freezer so older ones will be used first.
- Maximize your freezer. If you have more leftovers than you can consume immediately, put some of them in the freezer to make them last longer.
Consume Organic Food Immediately
Organic food contain little to no preservatives, so they have shorter shelf lives. At least 94 million Americans buy organic food for health reasons. But while they are more nutritious and don’t contain harmful chemicals, they also spoil quite quickly.
Freezing food is a great way to avoid waste. If you have leftovers and don’t know when you will finish them, you might as well freeze them. If you have products close to their expiration dates and you don’t think you can finish them while they are still fresh, you might as well put them in the freezer.
Use a Pantry Inventory App
Leveraging technology and using a mobile app simplifies inventory and makes home pantry management a breeze. A pantry inventory app will help you track, organize, and manage food items to prevent wastage.
What Is a Pantry Inventory App?
No matter how organized you are, there are times when you will neglect to pay attention to your inventory. A pantry inventory app will make it easier to organize and manage all of your food items at home or in your business. You can use it to manage food and other perishables, including medicine.
Here are some ways managing pantry inventory with a mobile app is beneficial:
Prevent Waste and Overbuying
Food waste is money down the drain. With a pantry inventory app, you know every single food item you have at home, and you can use or consume them long before they go bad.
With a pantry inventory app, you know what food you have at home at all times, so you don’t buy duplicate items on your next grocery run.
When consumers are in a hurry, they go to the supermarket and just stock their carts without thinking. But when they get home, they realize they still have a lot of that particular item in their pantry or refrigerator. Overstocking leads to waste.
Shoppers are also tempted when they see sale items or buy-one-take-one products and purchase them without considering what they already have at home or how they will use that ingredient. With robust pantry inventory, they won’t give in to such sales.
Be Aware of Spending
You can track your expenses within the app because your grocery runs and restocking activities are recorded. You can also quantify the dollar amount of food wasted in a given period and be mindful of those expenses when shopping.
With Nest Egg, you can track the prices of goods so you can set your budget before you step into the grocery store.
Another advantage of an inventory app is that it allows categorization and logging of location information so you know where everything is. This is especially helpful if you have multiple freezers or fridges, multiple properties each with its own pantry or have pantry in your RV or boat.
A pantry inventory app is also handy for household use when you have family members with different diets: kosher, vegan, keto, paleo, gluten-free, and more. You can label food items and color-code the tags for easy identification.
An intelligent inventory system will also send expiration alerts. You can adjust the settings to send notifications before the expiration date so you can consume the food as soon as possible and prevent waste. Keep in mind that expiration dates don’t mean food is bound for the garbage bin. They just refer to the date when the food is at its best quality.
In the case of medicines, keeping track of expiration dates will prevent you or your family from ingesting them, which may be harmful.
If you have to throw away bad food and other consumables, you can free up space in your pantry or refrigerator.
Stay on Top of Product Recalls
When the government mandates the recall of some products or manufacturers recall products voluntarily, you would need purchase date and retailer information to know if you have purchased affected products.
An intelligent inventory app such as Nest Egg can track information on the source of your food. You can choose to purchase exclusively locally, which will benefit your family and the businesses you support. For one, local produce could be much cheaper because there is no middleman. You also get the freshest produce when you purchase from local farmers.
Easy Way to Manage Pantry Inventory
Many people fail to fully comprehend the impact of wasting food. Wasting a couple of apples that went bad doesn’t seem so terrible. But when you add up all the wasted food products in a month, the result may be shocking.
Nest Egg provides you with the easiest way to manage your home pantry. It has an intuitive layout, simplified data entry, and easy organization. It can help you save time organizing your pantry and taking notes of essential information. More importantly, it can help you save money while preventing food wastage. Plus, you get to limit your carbon emissions too.
Take the first step to managing your pantry now!
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